Maxed Mower Maintenance
Indiana landscape pro Rodney Miles shares how he keeps the blades turning
Miles Mowing and Landscaping
Owner: Rodney Miles
Headquarters: Portland, Ind.
Market: Jay County, Ind., and surrounding communities
Services: Mowing, landscaping and related services
Employees: 5 peak season
Rodney Miles, 43, is exacting when it comes to the performance and reliability of his commercial mowers. He says he has no choice since mowing is his company's greatest revenue producer. For that reason he doesn't scrimp on buying top-quality units (Grasshopper 930Ds with hydraulic deck lift) and maintaining them strictly to manfacturer's recommendations.
"One of my mottos is to work smarter, not harder," says Miles, owner/operator of Miles Mowing & Lawn Care, Portand, Ind. To that point, the more efficiently he can mow clients' properties, the more time he can devote to delivering services to them and to others.
Rodney Miles, owner of Miles Mowing & Lawn Care, maximizes production by keeping top-of-the-line units in his fleet and rigorously maintaining them.
Portland is a city of about 6,300 in far east-central Indiana. He's been mowing the properties of homeowners and businesses in Jay County and two adjacent counties since 1996. This includes a 3-acre commercial property he's been cutting since he began his company.
In addition, the company, which in most seasons employs eight but cut back to five this year because of drought, provides aeration, overseeding and lawn mowing remains its bread-and-butter service. And, mowing efficiently and keeping units on the job and out of the repair shop is vital in his market where customers are frugal when it comes to paying for contract mowing.
"If I charged what I'm hearing contractors in other parts of the country getting, I wouldn't have any customers," says Miles. "You can only charge what your community will support."
To deliver the results he's seeking, Miles sticks with Grasshopper diesels. "Yes, being diesel, they'll give you more longevity, but that's not the main reason we use them. We like them because of their power and torque," says Miles. "The tip speed stays there even when we mow fast. Also, with the deck lift on the front-deck mowers we can go over rip rap and mow over curbs a lot easier."
Miles doesn't skimp on comfort for his operators either. He buys mowers equipped with suspension seats. "I have some big guys and we run two shifts. I can tell you from personal experience the suspension seats are lifesavers."
Miles says, ideally, he would like to take advantage of rain days to service his mowers, but even if it doesn't rain, he pulls his four units off the trailers regularly and gives them a thorough going over - filters, blades, everything. He also carefully records exactly what is done by hours and dates.
Each year Miles trades in two mowers and buys two new ones. He buys one in June and the other in the fall for delivery the following March. "I look at the engine hours and keep all of my maintenance records," he says, adding that by trading in one of his used, but well-maintained machines each fall (one still under warranty), he feels he gets better deal on a new mower.
"Because we take care of them, we think they're a little more than other used mowers," says Miles. "There's not a mower that I trade in that I wouldn't buy back if I needed another mower or a mower to use as a backup. We don't run mowers until they're junk."
Even so, there are occasions when one of his mowers requires a repair. He says he's grateful for the relationship he's established with regional dealers, including Outdoor Concepts, Inc., in Bluffton, Ind., about 30 miles away. The lawn and garden center delivers a replacement to him within the hour. It's often one of the mowers that he had traded in for a new model.
"It's important for us to get our jobs done as quickly as possible, and we're pretty good at it," Miles adds. "But everybody in our company knows it has to be done right."
Ron Hall is editor-in-chief of Turf magazine. He has been reporting on service industries, including the landscape/lawn service industry, for the past 28 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.